After a week of free agency, the Vikings are resting on that front while they attend the NFL owners meetings.
WR Greg Jennings was the last player to visit the Vikings' facility and he left with a lot of the money in the bank. But, while general manager Rick Spielman, vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski, head coach Leslie Frazier and their supporting casts were able to re-sign six of their own 10 unrestricted free agents and bring in Jennings and QB Matt Cassel with free agent contracts, there is some – but not much – spare room under the salary cap because of the way those contracts were structured and the other "business moves" the Vikings made, including the release of CB Antoine Winfield and WR Michael Jenkins.
Releasing Jenkins saved the Vikings $1.83 million on their salary cap (his $2.5 million base salary minus the $666,668 prorated portion of the bonus he received in 2011). The Vikings saved the full $7.25 million salary Winfield was due in 2013, even though they say the door is still open to a potential return (for a lower salary, of course). In total, those two moves alone saved the Vikings more than $9 million on the cap, the annual average of Jennings' contract. Without those cost-cutting moves they wouldn't have been able to make all the eight moves they did – adding Jennings and Cassel and re-signing RT Phil Loadholt, FB Jerome Felton, WR Jerome Simpson, LB Erin Henderson, S Jamarca Sanford and C Joe Berger.
Jennings was easily the Vikings biggest signing of the offseason, but because of the way his contract is structured, he counts only $5 million against this year's salary cap, despite the cash outlay for 2013 being $13 million. How is that possible?
His base salary for 2013 is only $2.9 million, with an increase to $4.9 million in 2014 and then $8.9 million for the final three years of the contract. In addition to the $2.9 million base, $2 million of his $10 million signing bonus (prorated over the five-year contract) and a $100,000 workout bonus count against this year's cap.
If the Vikings would have the entire $9 million average of his contract count against their cap, they essentially would have eaten up the rest of their salary cap room and likely would be forced into more restructurings or releases just to sign their draft picks. This way, they may have room to make another low-level move or two, or entertain bringing back Winfield at a lower price if he's willing at a later date.
Currently, they have about $5.5 million left in cap space.
Another way to look at the way the Vikings structured their biggest deal of the offseason is to consider that it wouldn't have been possible without them carrying over $8 million in cap room from 2012, an option the NFL allows, that made their cap number $130.3 million in 2013 after adjustments.
That shows the Wilf ownership group is willing to spend whatever they can under NFL rules to help bring a winner to Winter Park, and they did spend this year, despite Spielman cautioning the media that probably wouldn't before the start of the open market.
In total, the Vikings' eight signings cost them $21.8 million in cap space and $37.2 million in cash value this year alone.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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